Potassium is an
extremely valuable electrolyte essential to heart and kidney function as well
as to the maintenance of blood and urine pH.It is the chief electrolyte in the fluid of cells.In fact, only a small part of the total body
potassium is contained in the serum.Serum potassium values range from 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L while the
concentration inside the red blood cell is at least l5 to 20 times this
amount.While only a part of the total
body potassium is found in the serum, proper serum values are critical to
normal physiology, especially adrenal, heart and renal functions.Potassium should always be viewed in relation
to the other electrolytes.
Optimum Values: 4.0 to 4.7 mmol/L.
Serum potassium is increased in:
Adrenal Cortex under function.With hypoadrenia,
you may get dizzy when you sit or stand quickly, fatigue (especially
feeling tired in the morning), crave salt or salty foods, have a low
systolic blood pressure, experience food and/or environmental
sensitivities, feel weak or tired after colds, stress or exercise, sweat
easily with exertion, get shortness of breath after very minimal exertion
even though you are in shape, get colds and upper respiratory tract
infections easily, etc.Aldosterone
is produced by the adrenal cortex, with insufficient production, the body
loses sodium in the urine in exchange for potassium. This is why you may
see a relatively low sodium with a relative elevated serum potassium with
adrenal cortex underactivity. The adrenal corticosteroids also favor the
anabolic over catabolic balance.With less effect, there is less potassium in the cell and more in
Metabolic Acidosis.The level in the serum goes up while the
level inside the cell goes down as the potassium is pumped out of the cell
in exchange for the excess hydrogen ion (acid).
Respiratory Dysfunction causes elevated serum
potassium because of the effect it has on making the blood and tissues
more acidic due to lack of oxygen (hypoxia).
Massive Tissue Destruction.Although potassium is increased in the
serum, potassium may be needed because the largest store of potassium is
inside the cell.As they tissue is
destroyed the potassium is lost and the blood and then excreted.
Diabetes without adequate insulin.
Serum potassium is decreased in:
Diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Adrenal Cortex over function.Aldosterone is produced by the adrenal
cortex, with excess production, the body reclaims sodium from the urine in
exchange for excreting potassium.This is why you may see relatively high sodium with relative
decreased serum potassium with adrenal cortex over activity.
Several Types of Anemia.
Metabolic Alkalosis.Just the reverse of acidosis, the
potassium level in the serum goes down while the level inside the cell
goes up as the potassium is pumped into the cell in exchange for the
hydrogen ion (acid).
Familial Periodic Paralysis.
Diets High in Refined Foods due to lack of
potassium in the diet.
Insulin use.Potassium moves into cells when there is use of glucose or build-up
when your serum level is low without understanding the dynamics of potassium
can be dangerous.Since the serum only
holds about 2% of the body's potassium, it is possible that there is an excess
of potassium in the cell and a low level in the blood.This is why it is important to know what is
your aerobic status.For example, in an anabolic/anaerobic
condition, there is excess intra-cellular potassium and usually relatively
decreased serum potassium.Choosing
agents like calcium and magnesium that drive the potassium out of the cell is
the preferred treatment strategy rather than giving more potassium…
720 North Tustin Avenue Suite 104 Santa Ana, CA 92705-3606 Phone: (714) 565-1032 Fax: (714) 565-1035
Jeremy E. Kaslow, MD, FACP, FACAAI Physician and Surgeon Board Certified Internal Medicine
NOTICE TO CONSUMERS Medical Doctors are licensed and regulated by the Medical Board of California (800) 633-2322 www.mbc.ca.gov